The issue of different treatment of people from different genders receive continues to be one of the hottest topics. Many companies have faced long term consequences due to failure of observing fairness in their remuneration ad treatment between men and women in their organisations. The case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which saw Ledbetter filing a discrimination claim 19 years too later was rejected by the Supreme Court for being untimely. Gathering a lot of attention especially since it was broadcasted over the media, the gender discrimination case against Lilly Ledbetter saw a number of laws implemented including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (LLFPAC) of 2009 in order to meet the shortfalls of the previous gender discrimination laws (Bader, 2012). Based on the virtue ethics theory, doing well onto others often yields positive actions while other actions that may be considered wrong or immoral often yield consequences that may be undesired. Theories such as virtue ethics and utilitarianism emphasize of acting in the best interest of the greater good, which is likely to affect the organization positively in the long run.
With gender equality continuously gaining popularity in the past decade, many organizations have had to bow to pressure in terms of equal remunerations and treatment of their employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Others that continue preferring people of one gender over the other have faced consequences that have at times ruined the organizational reputation. One outstanding case regarding gender pay gap is that Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which drew a lot of attention due to the claims of gender discrimination. The case that was subject to discussion in the Supreme Court when Lilly Ledbetter lost her pay discrimination case. The loss was due to the later filing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) too late contrary to filing the case within the first 180 days as recommended (Bader, 2012). However, the law also allows employees to file cases later if they discover the discrimination later. The laws in relation to the gender gap issue include the LLFPAC of 2009 and the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) (Bader, 2012). The controversy in this case is based on the argument that Lilly only realized that she was paid less than her male co-workers two decades later hence making the complaint untimely.
When performing the same jobs and exerting the same effort, men and women alike should receive equal pay from any fair employer. According to the normative theory of virtue ethic, there are consequences to every action (Dawson, 2001). On the other hand, the deontologists believe that one should only do onto others whatever they believe to be universally best. Founded by individuals such as Socrates and Plato, virtue ethics emphasize on the moral wisdom, family relations and emotions. By putting oneself in the position of the other party, one is able to make better decisions that affect both parties in the long run. When one acts positively towards others, the reaction is expected to be good. However, deontologists believe that bad actions have consequences, which in the case of gender discrimination include strikes and lawsuits. In the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, paying Ledbetter less than the other employees for one reason or the other resulted in a prolonged lawsuit that ruined the company’s reputation. The only reason that Ledbtter’s case was dismissed from the Supreme Court was because she did not state lack of knowledge of the discrimination as was required under the law (Brake & Grossman, 2007). Like majority of other people, Ledbetter’s case was dismissed because she did not understand the law properly. This may have prompted other employees to reconsider working in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Mistakes once pointed out require fixing rather than pointing fingers. Rather than disregarding the mistake pointed out or shifting the blame to another party, it is crucial to deal with the problem in order to avoid long term damage especially to the organization. While Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co may be a successful organization, failure to address the issue especially for one of the longest serving employees may affect the organization’s ability to find good employees in the long run (Brake & Grossman, 2007). Among the major motivational factors for employees is job security and fair treatment. Equal treatment should be embedded in the organization’s culture in order to avoid similar issue in future. As the virtue ethics theory points out, morals are based on the beliefs and not necessarily the law (Dawson, 2001). Therefore, the organization should have considered factors that affect the organization positively to include fairness.
Gender discrimination has often been perceived as a practice common in a chauvinist society. Amidst globalization and westernization of culture, many societies have accepted equal treatment of men and women as a progressive move that benefits the greater society at present and in the future. When women receive the same acknowledgement as men, they tend to work twice as hard and remain productive in the long run hence reinforcing the consequentialism theory that actions have consequences. When helping a person in need, utilitarian will help since it will maximize the wellbeing. On the other hand, deontology will emphasize on helping the person since ‘one should do onto others what he/she desires others to do in return’ (Hursthouse, 1999). The role of every employer should include improving the lives of stakeholders regardless of their contribution towards the organization. Thus, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co failed to take this role seriously by prioritizing the profitability of the company rather than improving the well-being of the employees. This means that the management only perceived Ledbetter as a mere asset with the sole purpose of profiting the organization. According to virtue ethics, this is an unethical approach that has consequences in both the short and long run.
In the labor market, low wages account towards cost minimization but not necessarily towards long term profitability. Indeed, paying lower but legal wages can help reduce the operational cost. However, this does not necessarily mean that the organization benefits in the process. Virtue ethics perceives actions such as selfishness, rude and ungrateful as undesired while others such as responsible, considerate and caring are considered moral and desirable (Dawson, 2001). Although plenty of labor supply means that employers can choose to pay as they desire as long as they follow the specifications of the law, it does not necessarily mean that it is the smart thing to do.
After working for the company for 19 years, Ledbetter found an anonymous note informing her that she was receiving lower wages than her counterparts, which led to the lawsuit against the company (Ledbetter, Goodyear & Rubber, 2006). By doing what is right for the employees and admitting to gender discrimination, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co would have secured its future and salvaged its reputation as opposed to finding loopholes in the law and shifting blame for untimely filing of the lawsuit. The LLFPAC and the PFA implemented at the time allows employees to file a lawsuit against an employer every time they receive a discriminatory paycheck (Bader, 2012). The purpose of these laws was to eliminate the limitations of the previous laws requiring employees to file cases under certain deadlines.
While the theory of virtue ethics points to characteristics that are desirable and morally acceptable, it is not enough to help employers and employees shape their organizational culture, thus, the implementation of the LLFPAC and the PFA is crucial for enforcing the moral beliefs and decisions. While other ethical theories such as Utilitarianism emphasize on doing what achieves the greatest good, making decisions to that effect can be challenging without a supportive organizational culture (Furchtgott-Roth, 2010). However, making decisions that are in the best interest of the greater good would mean fewer conflicts especially in the workplace. Additionally, employees and any other stakeholder would feel important knowing that the organization cares for them. The major strength of virtue ethics is that it can be embedded as part of the organizational culture (Hooker, 1996). On the other hand, the utilitarianism approach is also advantageous in that it can create a good reputation for the organization. However, application of virtue ethics is likely to benefit the organization than the application of utilitarianism, which is likely to affect profits.
- Bader, H. (2012). Misconceptions about Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. . Retrieved 2017, from The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies: http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/detail/misconceptions-about-ledbetter-v-goodyear-tire-rubber-co
- Brake, D., & Grossman, J. L. (2007). Title VII’s protection against pay discrimination: The impact of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Regional Labor Review , 10 (1), 28-36.
- Dawson, S. (2001). Business Ethics Books: A Bookshop Survey. Journal of Business Ethics , 30 (4), 401-404.
- Furchtgott-Roth, D. (2010). Testimony on the gender pay gap [Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee]. Retrieved 2017, from http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/2a1f8ad4-f649-4ad3-a742-268d946962db/furchtgott-roth-testimony.pdf
- Hursthouse, R. (1999). On virtue ethics. OUP Oxford.
- Hooker, J. N. (1996). Three Kinds of Ethics. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University.
- Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. 550 U.S. 618. (2006). Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. 550 U.S. 618. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-1074.ZO.html